According to the Framework Convention Alliance, illicit trade in cigarettes is estimated at approximately 10.7 percent of global sales, or 600 billion cigarettes annually, while global losses in government revenue as a result of illicit trade in all tobacco products is estimated at approximately $40 billion to $50 billion or(381 billion) annually.
In a workshop on The Economics of Tobacco Control in Southern Africa held in Gaborone recently, Bontle Mbongwe, spokesperson for the Anti-tobacco Network in Botswana argued that weak control policies have encouraged the tobacco industry to shift its attention to the African continent. “The challenges for tobacco control in Africa are a result of the weak tobacco control policies which have encouraged the tobacco industry to shift its attention to the African continent,” she said.
Since the early 1990s the tobacco industry has consistently argued that illicit trade in cigarettes would increase a result of the increase in the price of cigarettes. Currently claims are that more than 20 percent of cigarettes sold in South Africa are illicit.
“Even though the tobacco industries claim that increases in the excise tax will result in large increases in illicit activity, we can say without doubt that this has not significantly undermined the government’s exercise tax revenues,” said Mbongwe.
Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa highlighted that the tobacco epidemic is growing in the African region. “The African region is facing a double burden of disease with communicable diseases and an increasing burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The risk factors for NCDs are known and preventable,” he said. The WHO has launched the Framework Convention on tobacco Control (FCTC) to address tobacco challenges and Zimbabwe did not sign up for the FCTC program. However, illicit cigarette are mostly bought from Zimbabwe.
Cigarettes brands like Madison, Kingsgate, Everest,Pacific and Seville’s are some of the commonly smuggled tobacco products from Zimbabwe. The 2001 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) indicated that tobacco-use prevalence among girls increased by 4.4 percent in 2008. The survey further revealed that cigars are becoming fashionable in the country,adding that previously, cigar-use was observed only among up-market consumers.
World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics reveal that tobacco caused 100-million deaths worldwide in the 20th Century.